Fix the economy, revamp health care, reduce global warming, pull out of Iraq and improve America's image in the world. And by the way – welcome to Washington.
So reads Barack Obama's dance card, a daunting to-do list coupled with high hopes. It offers him opportunities and hazards alike – a chance to outshine the unpopular George W. Bush, but with the risk of falling short of the public's substantial expectations.
Apart from dealing with the economy, the public's priorities for Obama in this ABC News/Washington Post poll include making major changes in the country's health care system (77 percent favor it), implementing policies to try to reduce global warming (75 percent) and withdrawing U.S. forces from Iraq in the next 16 months (70 percent).
Some specific sub-steps are popular as well: Within the aim of addressing global warming, 84 percent say Obama should require electric utilities to increase their use of renewable energy sources. Within health care, 74 percent favor higher federal spending on children's health insurance. And within the overriding task of dealing with the economy, 66 percent favor a moratorium on home foreclosures.
Two other items tested on this list drew less support: Fifty-two percent said Obama should expand federal funding of stem-cell research, and well under half, 40 percent, said he should close the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba – something he's pledged to do "in a responsible way." That'll take some careful maneuvering given the public's division on the question; 44 percent in this poll oppose closing Guantanamo.
WHEN – Priority is not urgency, however, and – again apart from the economy – fewer say Obama should initiate action on these items right away after taking office. Fifty-five percent say he should act quickly to require more renewables in electric power generation, 51 percent say he should start right away to make major changes in the U.S. health care system, 50 percent favor fast action to increase funding for children's health insurance and 48 percent favor moving quickly to deter home foreclosures.
Fewer, 43 percent, say Obama should move quickly to withdraw from Iraq; 40 percent, to implement policies to reduce global warming; and 18 or 19 percent, to close Guantanamo or to fund stem-cell research.
PARTY – There are sharp partisan differences in support for action by Obama on many of these. Half or more Republicans do support his attempting major changes in the health care system and trying to address global warming – 53 and 50 percent, respectively – but that's vastly below the levels among Democrats and independents.
Support for withdrawing from Iraq, moreover, ranges from 87 percent of Democrats to 43 percent of Republicans; for funding stem-cell research, from 66 percent of Democrats to 37 percent of Republicans; for closing Guantanamo, from 52 percent of Democrats to 24 percent of Republicans. They're closer on two other issues, renewable energy sources and a foreclosure moratorium. But the list shows that beneath partisanship lie real differences in issue preferences and priorities.
EXPECTATIONS – As noted, expectations of Obama are running high: Seventy-seven percent believe he'll be able to improve the United States' image abroad, and 64 to 68 percent think he'll be able to end U.S. involvement in Iraq, implement global warming policies and make significant improvements in the health care system.